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Will PolitiFact Ever Correct Its Biggest Obamacare Error?

3:34 PM, Oct 28, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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PolitiFact has a pretty terrible and rather partisan history of Obamacare fact checks. However, there's one, in particular, about Obamacare that remains especially puzzling. It's the "half-true" rating the organization gave when President Obama promised that, If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance under Obamacare. This was not a casually tossed-off statement by the president, either. It was made repeatedly and quite deliberately in an attempt to sell America on Obamacare.

Here's a pretty quick refresher:

Now Obamacare is being implemented, we can plainly see that this is not true. And not only that, in retrospect it looks like a pretty brazen and deliberate lie to drum up support for a health care law that was not popular with the American people and remains unpopular to this day. Media reports of consumers that are unhappy about their current insurance plan being terminated are piling up. According to Robert Laszewski, a health care wonk respected by both sides of the aisle, as many as 16 million Americans are going to have their insurance plans cancelled as a result of Obamacare. To put that in perspective, that's about 4.5 million more people than live in Ohio and over 3 million more than live in Illinois.

And yet, in 2009 PolitiFact rated Obama's statement "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan" as "half true." And last year, PolitiFact rated the statement, "If you're one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance," as "half true" again. 

Now PolitiFact explains the rationale for their rulings in both cases, but I suspect it won't do much to persuade anyone. The first ruling even explicitly states, "Barack Obama promises you can keep your health insurance, but there's no guarantee." If they're acknowledging that's the case, how can PolitiFact say it's even partially true? The president's promise was an absolute promise. If even a few Americans were losing their insurance -- let alone 16 million -- it would be untrue.

Interestingly enough, PolitiFact rated Mitt Romney "False" last year for the statement "Obamacare … means that for up to 20 million Americans, they will lose the insurance they currently have, the insurance that they like and they want to keep." PolitiFact dinged Romney, perhaps fairly, for the suggestion that everyone losing their insurance would want to keep it. Still, a generous reading would allow that the vast majority of people in the individual insurance market are probably not grateful Obamacare is doing away with many affordable insurance options. And based on what we know now about people losing their insurance due to Obamacare, Romney's statement about "up to 20 million" losing their health insurance is certainly much closer to being "half-true" than "if you like your health insurance you can keep it."

PolitiFact's "half-true" ratings of Obama's promise that Americans could keep their health insurance under Obamacare were indefensible at the time they were made. And in light of what we know now about millions of Americans losing their health insurance, these ratings should be a four-alarm trouser conflagration. Yet, PolitiFact hasn't updated their rulings to acknowledge that the president's repeated promise is demonstrably untrue. Updating and correcting your stories when new facts emerge that contradict your reporting -- and that word should be used very loosely here, given PolitiFact's shoddy and partisan track-record -- is the bare minimum one can expect of responsible journalists. PolitiFact pretends to sit in judgment of other journalists, yet they've proven again and again that they themselves do not abide by basic standards of journalism.

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